The Indianapolis Colts have had some terrific fortune when it comes to their second-day draft picks in recent years, finding first-round value in players who didn't make the cut on draft day.
The latest evidence of this comes from Pro Football Focus' re-do of the 2020 NFL Draft, which saw two of the Colts' actual second-rounders — wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. (No. 34 overall) and running back Jonathan Taylor (No. 41 overall) — land in Round 1.
12. LAS VEGAS RAIDERS: WR MICHAEL PITTMAN JR.
Original pick: WR Henry Ruggs III
With Henry Ruggs remaining on house arrest for felony DUI and reckless driving charges, the Raiders go a different direction at wide receiver. Pittman took a clear step forward in his second season out of USC last year for the Colts despite inconsistent play at the quarterback position, raising his PFF grade from 62.8 as a rookie to 79.9 in 2021. He’s an impressive route runner — particularly for his size — and is coming off a season where he caught 64.3% of his contested targets (second among wide receivers with at least 25 contested targets).
Pittman might not be the vertical threat that Las Vegas was searching for with the Ruggs’ selection, but he has a case as the best receiver left on the board in a talented class.
In 2020, Colts general manager Chris Ballard and head coach Frank Reich pulled the trigger in the early rounds on a receiver tailor-made for their offense. Featuring terrific football character, quality athleticism, and great size (6'4", 223), the Colts selected Pittman to be their alpha X-receiver of the future.
Pittman was third on the team in receiving yards as a rookie but then really became the no-doubt top dog in the lineup in Year 2. He led the team in targets over the next-best player by 60, receptions by 48, receiving yards by 698, and receiving touchdowns by 2. After notching his first-career 1,000-yard season, Pittman was named as a Pro Bowl alternate.
Overall, Pittman has started 25-of-30 games and totaled 128 receptions (190 targets) for 1,585 yards (12.4 avg.) and 7 touchdowns as well as 70 yards on 8 carries (8.8 avg.).
Going into 2020, this was an incredibly deep draft for receivers, and that's reflected as Pittman is the fourth receiver off the board in PFF's re-draft behind Justin Jefferson, CeeDee Lamb, and Tee Higgins.
20. JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS: RB JONATHAN TAYLOR
Original pick: ED K'Lavon Chaisson
In general, drafting a running back in the first round isn’t the best value proposition. However, it wouldn’t have felt right to get through 32 selections without highlighting a player who has a good case for being the best at his position entering the 2022 season. Taylor led all running backs in PFF grade during the 2021 season (87.0) and has everything a team wants in a lead back — size, speed, vision, etc.
James Robinson — who Jacksonville added as an undrafted free agent in 2020 — has exceeded expectations, but Taylor would bring a different level of talent to the backfield, though.
After finishing third in the NFL in rushing as a rookie (1,169 yards) and then dominating the rest of the league in rushing in Year 2, Tayor is now a bonafide superstar.
He's not the 20th-best player from the 2020 draft but PFF does not put a ton of weight on the running back position, so Taylor falls to 20th here. In real life, a player with the type of impact he has would almost certainly go in the top 10.
In his incredible sophomore season, Taylor totaled 332 carries for 1,811 yards (5.5 avg.) and 18 touchdowns to go with 40 receptions (51 targets) for 360 yards (9.0 avg.) and 2 touchdowns. He led the NFL over the next-best player by 25 carries, 552 rushing yards, and 3 rushing touchdowns. As a matter of fact, Taylor has 1,272 rushing yards after contact alone, which would've been good enough for third in the league overall.
He had perhaps the greatest season for a running back in Colts franchise history, finishing with the most rushing yards in a single season, the most games of 50-plus rushing yards (17), the most games of 170-plus rushing yards (4), the most rushing touchdowns (18), tied for the most rushing touchdowns in a game (4), the most total touchdowns in a game (5), the most total touchdowns in a season (20), and the longest rushing play (83).
Taylor tied for the most consecutive games in NFL history with at least 100 rushing yards and a rushing touchdown (8) and is also the youngest player in NFL history with at least 2,000 scrimmage yards (2,171) and 20 scrimmage touchdowns (20) in a single season.
Individually, Taylor accomplished about all that he could, including the Pro Bowl and a unanimous First-Team All-Pro nod. He earned the AFC Offensive Player of the Week award once (Week 11), AFC Offensive Player of the Month twice (October and November), and the FedEx Ground Player of the Week four times (Weeks 6, 10, 13, and 15).
Through two seasons, Taylor has started 30-of-32 games and totaled 564 carries for 2,980 yards (5.3 avg.) and 29 touchdowns as well as 76 receptions (90 targets) for 659 yards (8.7 avg.) and another 3 touchdowns.
*The Colts did not have a first-round pick in 2020, instead, dealing the No. 13-overall pick to the San Francisco 49ers in exchange for defensive tackle DeForest Buckner. The 49ers traded the pick to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who selected offensive tackle Tristan Wirfs. In PFF's exercise, the Buccaneers selected offensive tackle Mekhi Becton after Wirfs was taken with the fourth-overall pick by the New York Giants.
Do you think both Pittman and Taylor would go in the first round if they re-did the 2020 NFL Draft? Drop your thoughts below in the comment section!